Battle Engine Aquila
Nasty Thing this global warming. After decades of people flavouring their sweat in a futile bid not to repulse the opposite sex and spewing noxious gasses into the atmosphere with their motorised phallus extensions - not to mention all the colourless gasses emitted after all those sneaky late-night vindaloos - the earth has been ravaged by near apocalyptical climate changes. At least that's the case in the futuristic world of Battle Engine Aquila, a thrilling action-shooter, which will be blazing its way to the PC some time later this year. And although a publisher is yet to be announced, developer Lost Toys is currently in negotiations with several key players in the PC market.
With the world almost entirely covered by water, two battling empires - the Forseti and the Muspell - are locked in a bloody conflict over what little land still remains, and despite an aggressive advertising campaign from Coca-Cola to try and restore harmony and love to mankind (while selling a few bottles of fizzy pop along the way), the two sides remain intent on wiping each other out. A bleak reality indeed, although I was, of course, only kidding about the Coke part. It's Pepsi actually.
Enter you, a cocky puss-faced teenager called Hawk (naturally) who spends his time racing hover-cars with his mates, and unwittingly honing his skills as a crack fighter pilot at the same time. Which is a stroke of luck as a similarly aesthetically-challenged, angst-ridden adolescent reprobate dobs you in to the authorities like a girly-little-swot. The army then identifies your hidden talents and throws you into the frontline as the pilot of the most sophisticated piece of weaponry they possess - the Battle Engine Aquila. It could have been worse, you could have been peeling potatoes.
Before long, you're embroiled in an epic campaign, propelled forward by a branching mission tree and storyline that develop according to your successes and failures on the battlefield.
Half robot, half fighter, the Battle Engine is armed to the teeth with an array of lasers and missiles with which to decimate the enemy. I was fortunate enough to have an in-depth playtest of the PC version, which currently only runs at 640 x 480 resolution, but will be fully optimised over the coming months. While I was immersed in the frantic, yet subtly strategic action, it was clear that BEA is set to be as much of a hit on the PC as it's currently on the consoles. And here's why.
Yes, Here's Why...
The first thing that grabs your attention more violently than a lairy pissed-up Glaswegian on PCP is the sheer scope of the battles. As you fly your war machine around each level, dog-fighting endless droves of enemy fighters intent on felling your precious cargo ships, waves of enemy tanks spill out of their carriers like swarms of locusts, and bare down on your forces. The battle kicks off, Al against Al, with you and your war machine the wild card, capable of swaying a battle's outcome through your skill, or lack of it. But do you fight from the skies (with your lightly armoured fighter) or from the ground in your tank-like robot? The strategic decisions are, of course, solely yours.
The action is a pure adrenal-mix of quick-thinking and accurate shooting, a combination few other games have done justice to. Which is why we're already getting more than a little excited about the prospect of playing the final version.
Battle Engine Aquila is still several months off completion and of course an exact release date will rely on when a deal is struck with a publisher. But it's coming, be sure of that, and even at this stage, it's looking like being a massive hit in 2003.
Download Battle Engine Aquila
Infogrames November 2002--Developed by Lost Toys (former members of Bullfrog), Battle Engine puts gamers in command of various high-powered mechs and vehicles with which to do battle over land, sea and air. You'll need your wits about you as you defend your nation against invaders looking to expand into your territory. Considering their familiarity with strategy games on the PC, expect Lost Toys to add a few strategic elements to this pretty shooter.
Battle Engine Aquila isn't anything new. We've seen it before with games like Jedi Starfighter and other flight sim console titles. The big difference with Aquila is the sheer amount of enemies that you'll end up fighting. Aquila itself is a giant walking tank, a mech if you prefer, capable of taking to the skies by transforming into an aircraft. Taking part in a massive storyline about war on a planet far, far away, Aquila puts you into the action and gives you enough firepower to get the job done.
Before I begin, I should mention one thing. The only place that Aquila can't go is in the water. It can walk, it can fly, but the moment it touches the water, you lose the mission, on account of Aquila's non-amphibious nature. Now, I can accept this as a standard of gameplay (to add a bit of artificial danger to the game), but given the fact that in the game setting, most of the world is covered in water, and you're fighting on small islands that aren't much more than a few miles across, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Small problems like that aside, Aquila is fun. It's got pretty bad voice acting, and the animated cutscenes leave much to be desired, but for the most part, the action gets you through the rough parts. Aquila has an intuitive interface that keeps you heading toward the enemy, blazing away. With four different craft configurations and a variety of weapons with which to fight the enemy, there's plenty to blaze away with. Some of the weapons are next to useless, and the radar makes it difficult to keep track of the enemies that you're fighting, but usually, you've got so many enemies to kill that you won't need to worry much, until the game forces you to replay the mission.
That brings me to the best point of the game. You've got oodles to destroy'hundreds of tanks, tons of walking weapon platforms, infantry units, boats, aircraft, and weird little things that look just like the grid bugs from Tron. Targets are plentiful, and your collection of guns can destroy them with ease. Depending on how you configure Aquila, you can fight like a tank, blasting away the opposition, or like a bomber, dropping hundreds of plasma bombs on the enemy. The amount of destruction you can cause is quite significant, and quite enjoyable.
All in all, while there are numerous small faults, the gameplay to Aquila stands up to my inspection, and I'd say, if you're interested in a little mass warfare and destruction, try playing Battle Engine Aquila. Watch out though, as a few of the missions can get quite difficult.
On a world made mostly of water, it's important to bring a boat. Somehow, instead, you've gotten stuck with a giant walking robot, loaded with weapons, incredibly deadly, and capable of transforming into a jet fighter, but strangely doesn't possess the ability to float. Aside from that, Aquila (your robot) is a tremendously powerful weapon. Fighting through a series of missions that play out like a multi-stage flying FPS, there are objectives that need accomplishing every time you play, many of which are very difficult, and in some cases hidden from you. In a somewhat different turn, Aquila tries to imply a less linear mission style, where your skill at play determines the flow of the storyline, but for the creativity of it, and a single branched mission, this feature goes unused throughout the entirety of the game.
Graphically, Aquila is impressive in but a single quality, and that is the sheer amount of enemies displayed on the screen at any given time. With multiple releases, we've seen Aquila look much better, such as on its release on the Xbox. Although it was obviously designed to work on all systems equally well, the graphics, when compared to the [Xbox version], seem to not only be of less quality, but strangely not optimized well. This version seems to suffer not only from performance issues, but additionally some aliasing issues as well. From an aural standpoint, I thought the sound effects were really fun, with the right amount of crunchy impact, but I was disappointed by some really pedestrian voice work that didn't bring any of the game characters to life.
If you play Aquila, expect pain. It gives a good challenge, and takes a good beating. The story is fairly uninteresting, supported by poor acting, but you've always got something to shoot at, and a little bit more interesting weapons than you'd find in other titles of this same type. All in all, while I wouldn't call this title really high quality, it rests on the strength of good gameplay and a proven console game style. Additionally, coop multiplayer is always fun. Definitely worth the purchase.